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Suspects in Mount Clemens stabbing death headed to trial

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 7, 2015



MOUNT CLEMENS — The two men accused of stabbing to death a 22-year-old Clinton Township pizza delivery man in February are headed to trial this summer on felony murder and robbery charges.

Deandre Lee Arnold and Jayvon Tarice Cates, both 18 and from Mount Clemens, are accused of robbing and murdering Alexander William Burkart in a Gratiot Avenue parking lot Feb. 21 in what prosecutors say was either a drug deal gone bad or an outright robbery.

A surveillance video obtained by investigators shows that Burkart was approached by Arnold and Cates at the pumps of a Marathon gas station just after 8 p.m. Burkart then met the suspects moments later in a nearby parking lot on northbound Gratiot to allegedly purchase pills from them. A small struggle ensued, and Cates fled the scene as Arnold allegedly stabbed Burkart in the chest. Investigators said Burkart died only moments later, crashing his Dodge Dakota pickup truck into a utility pole.

Cates is being charged as an accomplice to Arnold.

Prosecutors said no pills were found on the ground where the incident occurred or in Burkart’s truck despite police officers, including a K-9 unit, searching the scene for evidence the night of the incident.

In separate police interviews, both suspects mentioned pills and denied robbing Burkart. Arnold said he stabbed Burkart in self-defense, and Cates, who was arrested later, said he got $5 from Burkart for two pills.

Arnold’s attorney, Jeffrey Cojocar, said it’s unknown whether or not the self-defense claim will fly. “The video is pretty telling,” he said.

Cojocar added that there is little more to divulge about the case, as he’s still in the midst of discovery on additional reports.

Cates’ attorney, James Galen, said his client is “absolutely not guilty of felony murder.”

“He is accused of an armed robbery, and that’s not what happened; it was a drug deal gone bad,” he said. He said his client sold the victim two Vicodin pills for $5.

Galen said it’s clear in the surveillance video that Burkart pushed Arnold to the ground, after which Cates immediately ran from the scene.

“It’s a terrible tragedy, but for an 18-year-old man to go to prison for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole would compound this tragedy,” Galen said.

Arnold was located and arrested the morning after the stabbing, while Cates remained at large until, acting on a tip from the Detroit Police Department’s homicide division and with assistance from U.S. Marshals, he was found hiding out at a location in Detroit on Feb. 25 and arrested.

The trial is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday, July 21 in Macomb County Circuit Court. Judge Mary Chrzanowski will preside.